The last few months has seen an unprecedented rise in the incidents of violent crimes in the otherwise peaceful Caymanian society. This has prompted government agencies to reach for reports of studies conducted in the past as everyone tries to get a handle on what is happening and how best to respond. The church has also gotten in on the act with a strong statement from the Cayman Ministers’ Association (CMA) condemning the violence and calling members of the community to play a part in making a positive difference. Some might wonder… what role can the church play in dealing with the problem of crime and violence? Let us consider a few.
Firstly, as the CMA statement affirmed, many of the churches have programmes that play an active part in helping young people to fulfill their God-given potential and make a positive contribution to society and therefore avoid the lure of the life of crime. It is little wonder therefore, that so many of the candidates for the Young Caymanian Award a few weeks ago were actively involved in church. Churches do make a difference by the programmes they run for young people that help to keep them from a life of crime.
Secondly, we also should not overlook the church’s teaching and stance for honesty, integrity, peace and justice which are all indispensible values if crime is to be kept to a minimum. Now more than ever churches need to fill the media with these values. Additionally, the church should find more ways of working with young people, the dispossessed, incarcerated and other-at-risk groups to foster these positive values and attitudes that will minimize the predisposition to engage in risky behavior that might lead to criminality.
Thirdly, churches can also help to engender hope when communities are besieged with despair. Hope emboldens courage and overcomes fear. This fear is a common reaction to crime but it can have debilitating consequences on the fight against crime. The churches’ presence and public acts of worship and prayer help to reassure a community of its connection with a spiritual reality. Indeed as politicians from different sides of the political fence have said in recent times, we will need divine intervention if crime is to be curtailed. An actively praying church helps to reassure a community that someone is standing on its behalf seeking God’s intervention. The church must never lose sight of this important role and must do more to be present in the community and more so when there have been incidents of violence. Moreover, the church must encourage personal and corporate prayer within its walls and out in the public domain not only because of the injection of hope this creates for the community but because prayer works.
Fourthly, churches also have the task of helping victims of crime and their families cope with these disturbing incidents. From the bereavement care for a family who has lost a loved one violently, to counseling someone who has been raped or robbed, very often it is a pastor or church member who is called upon to help persons cope with the trauma.
The church definitely has a role, but so do all of us. In the face of the current crime wave we all need to do what we can so that together we can bring a halt to the escalation of crime.
Rev Dr. Dave Hazle is Reverend of Elmslie Memorial United Church.